How to treat a scar

Posted on 7 March 2016

Pretty much everybody has a scar somewhere on their body – and while some scars can be ugly, they can all be treated. ‘The skin is a fascinating organ with incredible ability to heal,’ says Dr Sian Hartshorne, a dermatologist at Mediclinic Plettenberg Bay. ‘Even scars can, over years, slowly improve until they almost disappear and become forgotten.’

To prevent wounds from leaving ugly scars, you need to minimise the amount of work your body does in the healing process. ‘Giving support to the wounds by using micropore plasters for two to six months can help prevent bad scars,’ says Dr Hartshorne. ‘You can also use creams or oils to massage the scar daily. Creams containing silicone help to improve healing. These creams can be applied over the micropore plaster twice daily.’

While the scar is still forming, remember to avoid direct sunlight (which can cause discoloration), or, if it’s on an exposed area of skin, use a daily sunblock. Don’t use harsh chemicals like hydrogen peroxide: these can cause irritation and slow down the healing process.

Your skin has three main layers: the epidermis (a thin outer layer); the dermis (the deep, thick layer below that); and subcutaneous tissue (below the dermis). Scars form when your dermis is damaged and your body creates new tissue. That scar tissue is made of collagen – and if your body produces too much collagen during the healing process, you’ll get a raised scar called a hypertrophic scar or, if it grows beyond the area of your original wound, a keloid scar.

‘Certain areas of the body such as the back, chest and shoulders, are more prone to developing keloid scars,’ says Dr Hartshorne. ‘Some people are also genetically more prone to developing keloid.’ Keloid scars can be treated with external beam radiotherapy or with certain steroids. ‘Keloid scars are difficult to treat, but cortisone injections into the scar, silicone-containing creams or external beam radiotherapy can improve and decrease the scar,’ adds Dr Hartshorne.

Published in Dermatology

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